'Fragile Five' - new catchphrase to describe emerging markets

Written by PTI | New York | Updated: Jan 29 2014, 21:41pm hrs
Emerging marketsEmerging markets like India, South Africa and Brazil are being described as 'Fragile Five' by a global investment banker. Reuters
Emerging markets like India, South Africa and Brazil are being described as 'Fragile Five' by a global investment banker for their over dependence on skittish foreign investment to finance their growth ambitions.

The new catchphrase 'Fragile Five' is being used to describe markets which have witnessed economic turmoil in recent years, a rival to the term BRICs that had highlighted the long-term growth potential of Brazil, India, South Africa, Russia and China.

A report in the New York Times said the 'Fragile Five' has been coined by a research analyst at Morgan Stanley which identifies Turkey, Brazil, India, South Africa and Indonesia as "economies that have become too dependent on skittish foreign investment to finance their growth ambitions."

It said that the term 'Fragile Five' has caught on in large degree as it highlights the "strains that occur when countries place too much emphasis on stoking fast rates of economic growth".

The new catchphrase is also raising pressing questions about not just the state of the BRICs economy but about emerging markets in general.

The term coined by Morgan Stanley became a quick and easy way for investors to give voice to fears of a broader emerging markets rout, propelled by runs on the Turkish lira, Brazilian real and South African rand.

Morgan Stanley currency analyst James Lord sent out last August a research note warning of the risks within the "fragile five".

The name spread quickly, especially among investors already nervous about their emerging-market holdings.

Lord and his team at Morgan Stanley have been playing down his original thesis.

"We have been using the term less and less in our research," he said, explaining that responses by policy makers in these countries have to some extent addressed the issues he raised.

Jim O'Neill, an economist at Goldman Sachs, who had coined the term BRICs in late 2001, said he still believes these markets are the "best investment opportunities in the world."

When O'Neill had coined the BRICs phrase, foreign capital inflows into emerging markets were about USD 190 billion a year, according to data from the Institute of International Finance, the trade group for international banks.

As yield-starved investors poured into ONeills markets and their economies, the annual net inflows into BRICs markets averaged a little over one trillion dollars a year since 2010.

However the economic picture changed last summer, when the Feds announcement that it would eventually reverse its bond-buying programme panicked giddy emerging-market investors, the report added.

Concerns like a slowdown of growth in China, political uncertainty in Russia and Turkey and "most crucially", vulnerable currencies in Brazil and South Africa, spurred concerns over the possibility of a broader market panic, the report added.